Russia to Help South Korea Reestablish Siberian Tiger Population

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Jul. 23 – Russian conservation specialists will help South Korea to reintroduce Siberian tigers, also known as Amur tigers, which were wiped out on the Korean Peninsula in the early 20th Century.

Russia’s own population of the critically endangered animal has stabilized at about 450 in the Primorye and Khabarovsk regions, largely as a result of intensive conservation and anti-poaching efforts in the past 20 years.

“We discussed how we will continue sharing experiences in preserving tiger species with our Korean colleagues. Korea plans to develop a tiger population, and we have enough experience, we will send experts to help them save the population,” Sergei Donskoi, Natural Resources and Environment Minister said at the APEC Meeting of environment ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group in Khabarovsk.

The meeting saw delegates identify fighting biodiversity loss and improving cross-border cooperation on water management and air pollution as priorities for the upcoming years.

A joint declaration adopted by the summit highlighted five key areas as priorities:

  • Biodiversity
  • Sustainable use of natural resources
  • Water management and transnational watercourses
  • Cross-border air pollution and climate change
  • Green growth

By the organization’s own estimates, APEC’s 21 member economies account for more than 50 percent of the world’s forested areas, 60 percent of global wood products, and 80 percent of the global trade in forest products. The Asia-Pacific region is the world’s largest producer and consumer of mineral resources.

Cross-border issues are a sensitive topic among all group members. Taiwan has said that 37 percent of its air pollution comes from abroad — a clear reference to mainland China — and that only multi-national cooperation can solve the problem. Russia also had a quarrel with China over pollution of rivers the two countries share.

Another step towards Siberian tiger preservation has been made by Russia and China. Delegates of two counties were discussing the possibility of creating cross-border conservation areas with China in cooperation with the Land of Leopard National Park, established in the Primorye Territory in 2011, to help preserve tigers and leopards.

“Rare species of flora and fauna are the most vulnerable components of biodiversity and the distribution of individual animals is not limited to the borders of one particular country,” Valery Orlov, with Department of State Policy and Regulation of Hunting and Wildlife of Russian Environment Ministry told reporters, while adding that environmental issues had not been discussed by the APEC economies since 1994.

In South Korea, tigers are extinct. Heavily fortified walls of barbed wire in the 4 kilometer-wide demilitarized zone blocks all wild animals from traveling between South and North Korea. It was 1922 when the last tiger was seen and hunted on Mt. Daedeuk in Gyeongju, South Korea’s North Gyeongsang Province, according to The Fund for Korean Tigers Conservation, established by civilians in 2004.

The Tingus people, local to the area, considered the Siberian tiger a near-deity and often referred to it as “Grandfather” or “Old man.” The Udege and Nanai called it “Amba.” The Manchu considered the Siberian tiger as Hu Lin, the king. The most elite unit of the Chinese Imperial Army in the Manchu Qing Dynasty was called “Hu Shen Ying,” which literally mean “The Tiger God Battalion.”

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